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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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The Magnificent Seven

Seven. The number of completion. Of wonders of the world. Of legendary itches. And the number of times I’ve gotten lucky and right in my life: my second husband, four kids, teaching career, writing life.

This summer we are celebrating all of them — the completions, wonders, itches, and all things right in my life. So much has happened — so much life — in the last seven years.

Seven years ago this month we drove out to Dallas from Augusta with Caitlin, a freshly-minted doctor embarking on her residency. She graduates in one week, after receiving one of the finest and most brutal trainings known to medicine.

She’s flourished here, but that doesn’t mean it’s come easy. Dallas has been a painful growing process — lots of pressure, pruning, heat, storms, and fertilizer (so much colorectal content!). But she’s grown and blossomed into a big, beautiful, bodacious surgeon, ready to excise cancer at its roots.

Seven years ago this month, Mike and I drove her to Dallas while embarking on our own life-altering journey. We were in the process of mapping out an IVF schedule, communicating with our fertility specialist to choreograph not one, but two cycle details and dates: my own and our egg donor’s. Seven years later, we have flourishing six-year-old boys.

But these wonders of ours haven’t come easy. It’s been a painful growing process, being the mother of twins at my age. Lots of pressure, pruning, heat, storms and fertilizer (so many diapers!) But the boys eventually potty-trained (finally, at 3!) and learned to sleep(ish) and have grown into big, beautiful saplings, full of potential and wonder.

And even though Mike and I are about to complete our eighth year of marriage, we lost a year of sleep and sanity when the boys were born, so I’m claiming seven In keeping with this theme… I am more in love with him now than ever. He has pulled my heart into the light and shown it how best to flourish. And honestly, it’s come pretty easy. Sure, we’ve had hiccups and spats, but we’ve had so many more blessings and sparks. And they just keep coming. Together, we’re brighter, better, stronger than we could ever be apart. Gosh, how I love him. And gosh, how I love us.

So no, the seven-year-itch I mentioned has nothing to do with our relationship. No, it has to do with my writing life. I’ve been scratching hard at a novel these last few quarantined months, trying to bring it into the light. It’s been simmering under my skin like chiggers for quite some time, nagging away, just begging me to dig at it. And now I’ve begun, I can’t stop. It’s like the harder I scratch the more it hurts — and the better it feels. It’s a growing process. And I’ve given myself another half a year to complete this tickly, prickly gestation and get it birthed, Good Lord willing.

Yes, it’s been seven years and I’m back in Dallas once again, packing up Caitlin’s apartment and unpacking memories, while she packs in a few more surgeries and a good many hard-won, difficult goodbyes.

These seven years have been a whirlwind of goodness, grace, and growth. I am so full of gratitude for the many blessings received along the way — for the completion of Caitlin’s residency, the wonders of our miracle twins, the blessings of my second-born, Bethany’s wedding and the birth of her own beautiful family, the change of scenery in my teaching career, the writing itches that have unearthed my blogging endeavors and my percolating novel.

All the pressures, pruning, heat, storms, and fertilizer of life surely can bless you a bundle. Can’t wait to see what takes root and grows in these next seven years.

Fertility Godmothers: Egg Donors (and Surrogates)

Some people claim the good old days are long gone. I call Bull Shenanigans. According to those folks, people used to be more trustworthy, more helpful, and more neighborly. You could “always depend on the kindness of strangers,” to borrow a Tennessee Williams’ quote. And speaking of borrowing, if your hens weren’t laying and you wanted to bake a cake, you simply garnered a couple of eggs from a buddy down the block. And if you needed some assistance — raising your barn or raising your kids — someone always came through.

Now I haven’t raised any barns recently, but I am raising twin boys – which takes a hell of a lot more strength and manpower, let me tell you – and folks always seem to come to the rescue. Take this past Sunday afternoon. We were at a local burger joint when one of the boys, who was curled up on my lap feeling crummy, managed to knock over my drink, giving both of us an ice bath. Before I could even react, a mother at the next table jumped to the rescue, swabbing us with napkins and then going for reinforcements when it became obvious we would need a warehouse-full. So don’t tell me chivalry is dead.

And while people have performed random acts of kindness since time immemorial, only in this day and age have those acts been granted an international day all their own. But kindness is not relegated to a single day. You constantly hear and read about layaway Santas, drive thru do-gooders, and animal shelter altruists.

What really elevates this era from the ones that came before it, though, is that the whole neighborly trait of lending a cup of this or a couple of that when you’re in need has moved beyond simple, farm-variety produce. In this beautiful, postmodern world, you can borrow eggs to bake up a cake or you can borrow eggs to bake up a baby. Seems to me that’s taking the whole “kindness of strangers” notion and knocking it up (you see what I did there?) a notch.

I like to think of the IVF process as a pantry to pregnancy revolution (rather like the farm to table one in food). And I guess that makes our boys a sort of revisited and reinvented version of the Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa classic:

Take a cuppa sperm, well beaten 😊 and a coupla eggs, borrowed.

Mix well.

Marinate 5 days. Transfer resulting coupla embryos to clinically preheated oven.

Bake 9 months, and… VOILA!

birthboys2

Now, I don’t want to mislead you — IVF isn’t that simple. And it certainly isn’t as failproof as the time-honored Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa cobbler recipe. It takes a carefully calibrated oven and experts who’ve undergone years of rigorous training to ensure just the right amount of salts, sugars, amino acids and proteins are in place during prep and baking.

Nor do I mean to make light of infertility or the expensive and excruciating journey that comes with it, a journey that is so full of loneliness and uncertainty. There are no guarantees. But there are options. If your fertility quest is hitting roadblock after roadblock, please remember that there are generous strangers out there — fertility godmothers if you will – ready to lend their eggs or even their wombs (one of my former students has offered her uterus as a surrogate on two separate occasions) for struggling couples.

Three years ago, I was able to bake up some babies with a fertility godmother’s healthy, young eggs, my husband’s sweet sauce, and my own reconstituted oven. The effect of one anonymous stranger’s generosity and the amount of gratitude in our hearts for her sacrifice  is impossible to put into words. She made our dreams come true.

I believe in the magic of kindness and the kindness of strangers. Put those two things together and miracles occur. Living, breathing, Cuppa Coupla Coupla miracles. If the glory days are in the past, then the hallelujah days are in the present. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.

Amen and pass the cobbler.

 

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